Focke-Wulf Ta 154
|Prototype Ta 154 V1 (TE+FE)|
|First flight||1 July 1943|
The Focke-Wulf Ta 154 Moskito was a fast two-engine German night fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank and produced by Focke-Wulf late in World War II. Only a few were produced and proved to have less impressive performance than the prototypes.
Kurt Tank's team at Focke-Wulf had been working for some time on a fast attack bomber aircraft called the Ta 211, so named because it planned to use an uprated Jumo 211R engine. The plane was a high-wing twin-engine design and was built primarily of plywood bonded with a special phenolic resin adhesive called Tego film. The only large-scale use of metal was in the pressurized cockpit.
The project's designation was changed to Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM—Ministry of Aviation) assignment number 8-154 (hence Ta 154) when it became apparent that the most suitable engine for the aircraft was the more powerful Jumo 213, and that Junkers could not deliver the Jumo 211-R in time due to technical and production problems. The 154 was also allocated the name "Moskito" as a form of recognition of the Royal Air Force's (RAF) de Havilland Mosquito.
In August 1942, the RLM asked for designs to meet a need for a dedicated night fighter, and the competition quickly boiled down to the Heinkel He 219 and the Ta 154. 15 prototypes of each were ordered for further testing. Throughout the contest the RLM generally favored the 219 due to its better visibility and range. They also seemed to be suspicious of the 154's wooden construction. In 1942, the Messerschmitt Me 210 should have been the only plane considered, but it was suffering significant development problems and was ignored.
It was at about this time that the light and very fast de Havilland Mosquito, also made of wood, arrived over Germany. It quickly racked up an impressive record; in its first 600 bombing missions, only one was shot down, compared to an average of 5% for RAF medium and heavy bombers. Erhard Milch personally requested a purpose-built German answer, and selected the 154. Infighting within German circles started almost immediately, because the RLM and night fighter units still wanted the He 219. Milch took this personally, and spent the better part of the next two years trying to have the 219 program terminated.
Development of the Ta 154 was already well advanced, and the first prototype V1 with Jumo 211F engines. bearing the Stammkennzeichen identification code TE+FE, had its maiden flight on July 1, 1943. It was followed by V2 with Jumo 211N engines, which was kept at the factory for handling trials. V1 was then sent to Rechlin-Lärz Airfield for fly-off testing against the He 219A and the new Junkers Ju 388. There the 154 reached almost 700 km/h (440 mph) and easily outflew the other two planes, but those were both fully armed and equipped with radar.
The first armed example of the Ta 154 was the V3 prototype, which also was the first to fit the Jumo 211R engines. The added weight of the guns and drag of the 32-dipole element Matratze radar antennas used on its UHF-band FuG 212 Lichtenstein C-1 radar unit slowed the plane by a full 75 km/h, although it was still somewhat faster than the 219. The rest of the 15 prototypes were then delivered as A-0 models, identical to V3. Some of these also included a raised canopy for better vision to the rear.
It quickly became clear that the Jumo 211R would not be available any time soon, if at all. Future production turned to the more powerful Jumo 213A, but this was also suffering from long delays. The 154 program spent most of the next year testing various prototypes, and sent many of the A-0s to Erprobungskommando 154. During these tests the plane showed an alarming tendency to break its complex lever-action main landing gear, and about half of the V series prototypes were lost this way.
By June 1944, the Jumo 213 was finally arriving in some numbers, and a production run of 154 A-1s were completed with these engines. Just prior to delivery the only factory making Tego-Film, in Wuppertal, was bombed out by the Royal Air Force, and the plywood glue had to be replaced by one that was not as strong, and was later found to react chemically, apparently in a corrosive manner, with the wood in the Ta 154's structure. In July, several A-1s crashed with wing failure due to plywood delamination. This same problem also critically affected the Heinkel He 162 Spatz, Ernst Heinkel's "Volksjäger" jet fighter program entry.
Tank halted production in August, and the RLM eventually cancelled the entire project in September (Milch had been removed by then). At that time about 50 production aircraft had been completed, and a number of the A-0 pre-production planes were later modified to the production standard. An unknown number of the planes served with Nachtjagdgeschwader 3, and a few were later used as training aircraft for jet pilots.
The designation A-2/U3 was given to six A-0s converted into Mistel composite aircraft. At least three Pulkzerstorer (Formation Destroyer) schemes were mooted for the 154. The only one of the three that was actually brought to operational readiness was a system whereby the entire forward fuselage ahead of the fuel tanks was filled with Amatol high explosive. A new and extremely small cockpit for the pilot was added to the airframe directly ahead of the tail-fin. From this cramped cabin, the pilot would fly the 'Bomb Moskito' into an Allied bomber formation, arm the onboard charges and quickly bail out. A timer would then detonate the explosives a few seconds later. It was hoped that this flying bomb system would tear large holes in the Anglo-American bomber streams at little cost to the Luftwaffe in terms of pilot casualties. A small number of 154 airframes were converted to this system, but it was never used in combat. It is possible, but not certain, that the Moskitos converted to Mistel use mentioned above were in fact these planes and not intended for the former parasite fighter role at all. The loss of much of the relevant documentation in the chaos of the war's end means that absolute facts in the matter may be forever elusive.
Specifications (Ta 154 A-1)
Data from
- Crew: 2
- Length: 12.55 m (40 ft 3¼ in)
- Wingspan: 16.30 m (52 ft 5¼ in)
- Height: 3.60 m (11 ft 4 in)
- Wing area: 31.40 m² (333.7 ft²)
- Empty weight: 6,600 kg (15,000 lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 9,950 kg (21,900 lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × Junkers Jumo 211N liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,450 PS (1,066 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 615 km/h (332 kn, 382 mph)
- Range: 1,400 km (760 nmi, 870 mi)
- Service ceiling: 9,500 m (31,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 15 m/s (2,800 ft/min)
- 2 × 20 mm MG 151 cannons
- 2 × 30 mm (1.18 in) nose-mounted MK 108 cannons
- 2 × fuselage-mounted 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons, Schräge Musik
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Related lists
- List of World War II military aircraft of Germany
- List of military aircraft of Germany
- List of WW2 Luftwaffe aircraft prototype projects
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